Third Party Accident Liability in Mobile, AL

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In the world of insurance and litigation, there are at least three different parties possible. The plaintiff, which is the party seeking recovery, the defendant who defends from a claim, and then there is a third party, which can be just about anyone else. Third parties come up frequently in personal injury cases and particularly vehicle accidents because, not surprisingly, many car collisions and impacts happen in places where there is more than just two parties. The same can apply to other types of personal injury as well, and it’s a good reason why one should consider legal support for Mobile, AL injuries.

Understanding Who is Involved in a Third-Party Claim

When a third party files a claim, they are seeking coverage from someone other than the direct party responsible. This is not that uncommon. For example, a defendant who is insured contracts with an insurance provider to take on the financial value of their risk ahead of time. So, when they do cause an accident, the victim can sue the insurance provider or third party versus the covered party at the wheel. This is also known as a third-party claim. The insurance provider didn’t actually cause the vehicle accident, but the insurance company can be claimed against because it has taken on the liability of the person who is responsible. Most states actually require drivers to have vehicle insurance coverage for their driving on public roads, just in case the driver causes someone harm and that victim then sues for recovery.

Vehicle accidents have a high probability of creating serious damage and lots of expenses for repair very quickly, most times outpacing anything a person can pay out of pocket as a private individual. As a result, to prevent multiple people from being bankrupted and ruined by others’ vehicle mistakes, insurance coverage is a necessity on Alabama roads.

Initiating the Third-Party Claim

Following established legal procedures, the third-party claim doesn’t happen on its own. While an insurance provider might seek out an injured party to achieve an early small settlement versus what an eventual claim could end up being, the victim has to initiate the third-party claim to make it formal. In most cases where people have their own car insurance, the victim’s insurance provider will do the paperwork and start the process for the victim. The two insurance companies then work through their protocols to agree on fault from their perspectives and arrive at an agreement. Again, the goal here, from the provider’s perspective, is to settle as quickly as possible and avoid anything expensive, like a real lawsuit for recovery.

Be Prepared for Information Requirements

Even though you may be a victim, you still have to provide a significant amount of information for any claim, and a third-party claim is no exception. The data is personal, extensive, and covers a lot of details some people might be uncomfortable sharing. That kind of data can include all known information about the driver’s licenses and contact information involved. Vehicle registration, model, make, last known mechanical condition, auto insurance, and any available photographs of the incident can be required. If there are known witnesses, including passengers, they will need to be identified as well. Copies of any relevant police reports will be required too. Of course, if one has an insurance provider or attorney involved, they tend to take care of most of these matters for a client, but if you’re making your third-party claim alone, then the burden is on you as the filer.

What to Expect after Filing?

The third-party claim, if kept at the provider level, goes through standard insurance company treatment. That means the claim gets reviewed, typically by a claims adjuster. His or her job is to validate the claim and determine whether there is anything that could reduce the value of the claim from what is originally requested or whether the claim should be approved for the best value of the provider to close the matter. If approved, the adjuster handles the processing of sending payments to the claimant or companies hired to repair the claimant’s property. Typically, property repairs are paid directly to repair vendors to avoid fraud, and medical costs are paid either to the claimant or the claimant’s health insurance.

Why Would a Third-Party Claim Be Better Than a Lawsuit?

Where a victim in a car accident generally has a property issue that can be resolved with repairs, little or nothing in the way of injuries, and generally can resolve the matter through insurance, a third-party claim is a more efficient and faster resolution. A lawsuit can take a couple of years to resolve, whereas a third-party claim could be squared away in a few weeks. However, while efficiency can be attractive, it also means that victims could end up waiving recovery rights for a lot more. This is definitely the case where the recovery needs to also include medical costs, pain & suffering, and lost wages or lost income opportunities. These figures could be much bigger than the simple cost of a vehicle repair.

Alabama and Third-Party Liability

As a state, Alabama institutes and enforces a required insurance coverage law for its drivers. That means every driver on public roads has to be insured, at least to a minimum level spelled out by state law, to legally operate. If not, the party could end up in jail as well as owing hefty fines as punishment. Technically referred to as an at-fault jurisdiction, Alabama holds accountable parties directly responsible for damages caused to someone else while driving or responsible for a vehicle. The required insurance makes sure the same has the ability to pay the liability if it has to be claimed. This then gets into the third-party claim process discussed above.

However, Alabama’s requirement on drivers is only a minimum requirement. That involves what is referred to as a 25/50/25 range of coverage. $50,000 is for bodily injuries caused per accident (in total), $25,000 as a cap of bodily injuries per individual affected, and $25,000 for owned property damaged. Given today’s costs for medical treatment alone, $50,000 is probably not going to be sufficient for full recovery in a serious injury accident. Again, this is why a third-party claim approach could be the wrong decision in terms of medical recovery.

If you believe your accident is far more than just property damage, then the first step that should be taken is to talk to a personal injury attorney before engaging or agreeing to any kind of third-party claim, especially one worked out between the insurance providers involved alone. It could end up short-changing the full recovery needed.

Deepti Asthana

As Managing Partner at Caldwell, Wenzel and Asthana, Deepti Asthana works primarily in the areas of personal injury, and estate and trust litigation. In 2017, Lawyers of Distinction named Deepti as one of the Top 10% of Alabama attorneys in Civil Litigation. She also won multiple academic awards while pursuing her JD at University of Western Ontario.

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